competition

Content tagged with "competition"

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IN OUR VIEW: Save ACP And Then Some

With the $14.2 billion Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) on track to run out of funds by spring/early summer 2024, finally there is a request from the White House to extend funding for the program that over 21 million housholds now rely on to help pay for high-speed Internet service.

Last week, the Biden administration formally asked Congress for another $6 billion to extend the program through November 2024, joining a chorus of public interest groups (including AARP) calling on Congress to replenish the rapidly depleting fund.

(According to our calculations, an additional $6 billion would not fund the program through December 2024 as the White House said. It would fund the program through the end of November 2024. It would take $6.9B to get through the end of December).

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ACP Dashboard as of 10.31.23

First established with the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) in 2021 as part of the Biden administration’s “Internet for All” initiative, the ACP – currently administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – provides income-eligible households with a $30 monthly subsidy ($75 per month for those living on Tribal lands) to pay for their Internet service bill. The program also provides a one-time $100 benefit to go towards the purchase of an Internet-connected device such as a laptop or tablet.

Memphis Launches $700 Million Plan To Expand Fiber Access

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland has introduced an ambitious new plan to incentivize private telecom providers to deliver affordable fiber to 85 percent of the Tennessee city of 633,000. The project, part of the city’s Memphis 3.0 master plan, will spend more than $700 million to expand broadband in a city where less than a quarter of residents–most of them wealthy–have access to next-generation fiber.

On September 23, city leaders introduced a new city ordinance amendment establishing new, streamlined permitting and fee requirements. Their goal: to incentivize companies willing to expand fiber optic broadband to at least 60 percent of Memphis’ residential and business premises and 60 percent of all existing low-income premises.

Not long after, city leaders unveiled more details about their "Smart Memphis Fiber" effort. After issuing an RFP last year, Memphis officials say they’ve struck a partnership with Paris-based Meridiam and Blue Suede Network to build a $700 million fiber optic network with an eye on eventually reaching 85 percent of the total Memphis population.

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Memphis 3.0 Plan cover sheet

“City Government will incentivize any interested company by reducing our costs through reductions in permitting fees and right-of-way fees,” Strickland said in a recent presentation before the city council. “Additionally, we will streamline our process to allow a company to get to work faster. We are also putting our own skin in the game.”

Scranton, PA Issues RFQ For Citywide Gigabit Fiber Network

The city of Scranton, Pennsylvania has issued a request for qualifications (RFQ) for vendors that may be tasked with constructing an affordable citywide fiber network. City leaders say the RFQ is the opening chapter in a bid to bring affordable broadband access to city residents long neglected by dominant regional monopolies.

According to the full RFQ, officials are looking for partner companies capable of building a citywide network capable of providing 1 Gbps (gigabit per second) download and upload speeds to all premises in the City of Scranton, as well as expanded fiber access for city municipal services and key anchor institutions.

“The City does not require municipal ownership of the fiber or a City operational role,” the RFQ states. “However, the City does request connectivity to certain City sites, a 40-year indefeasible right of use (IRU) for 12 strands of fiber for municipal noncommercial purposes throughout the network, and an access and maintenance agreement governing these strands.”

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Scranton Pa map

As with so many U.S. markets, broadband competition in Scranton is hard to come by. The market is largely dominated by either Comcast Xfinity or Verizon, the latter of which has been heavily criticized by unions and consumer groups for failing to uniformly upgrade its aging DSL network to fiber, and failing to repair aging lines on a timely basis.

This lack of meaningful competition results in slow broadband speeds, spotty coverage, substandard customer service, and significantly higher prices. Even then, the city hasn’t been without signs of life in the marketplace.

Syracuse Launches Surge Link Community Broadband Network

Syracuse officials have launched a new wireless community broadband network they hope will help bring affordable broadband access to the city of 145,000.

Dubbed Surge Link, the effort is backed by more than $3.5 million in federal funding and aims to deliver free broadband access to the city’s lowest income neighborhoods.

Motivated by peak pandemic connectivity headaches, Syracuse put out a request for proposal (RFP) late last year. The city then hired US Ignite as an advisor, and selected Geneva-based Community Broadband Networks (no relation to our program here at ILSR) to build a fixed wireless network capable of delivering discounted access starting with 2,500 underserved Syracuse households.

City officials tell ILSR the network is using Fixed Wireless Access technology, specifically Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), which is an emerging technology a growing number of municipalities and other nonprofit community groups have been experimenting with as a way to bring broadband to unserved and underserved residents in dense settings. And while CBRS has promise, as US Ignite notes, “because the technology is relatively new, the hardware and software associated with CBRS networks is also new. Vendors may still be working out the kinks in their solutions, particularly if those solutions are being used in novel ways, or need to interface with other older systems.”

It should also be noted that another New York community (Westchester County) embraced CBRS, only to find that it could not deliver the capacity they wanted to many people who needed the service. 

U.S. News & World Report Finds Nearly 2 in 5 Internet Subscribers Compromise Personal Expenses to Afford Internet

With the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) poised to run out of funding in early Q2 next year, and no funding source lined up to keep the program alive, a recent U.S. News & World Report survey underscores the significance of the program in the face of rising prices from the nation’s major Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

The ACP offers a monthly benefit of $30 dollars for qualifying households and $75 for qualifying households on Tribal lands (as well as in some remote areas). Over 20 million Americans to date have enrolled in the program to help pay their Internet service bills, but with the $14.2 billion ACP program on track to run dry as soon as May of next year – even amid a historic national effort to establish “Internet For All” – the affordability crisis has become more worrisome for a growing number of Americans.  

U.S. News & World Report’s survey found that Internet prices are going up and that families are compromising other expenses to pay for connectivity, affirming the urgency among digital equity advocates to identify a source of continued funding for ACP, as well as push for more structural solutions that address the root causes of why Americans pay among the highest prices for broadband service in the developed world.

Cleveland's Two-Pronged Attack To Make ‘Worse-Connected City’ Label A Relic Of The Past

Cleveland, Ohio is putting the finishing touches on an ambitious plan to build a citywide open access fiber network–and deliver affordable fixed wireless service–at minimal cost to city residents. The double-edged proposal aims to bring both meaningful broadband competition–and lower rates–to the long neglected city of 1.7 million people.

Last month, the city announced it had awarded $20 million in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds to Cleveland-based digital equity non-profit DigitalC. Under the proposal, DigitalC will spend 18 months building a fixed wireless broadband network capable of providing locals with symmetrical 100 Megabit per second (Mbps) service for $18 a month.

DigitalC’s fixed wireless service, EmpowerCLE+, launched in 2018 and accelerated its deployment in 2020 to meet the needs of frustrated parents and workers during peak COVID.

Speaking at ILSR’s and the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) Building for Digital Equity (B4DE) event last week, DigitalC CEO Joshua Edmonds noted that the EmpowerCLE+ network currently passes 23,500 households in Cleveland, with 2,300 current subscribers. The city’s new agreement with the city should expand the network’s potential reach to 99.9% of homes in Cleveland.

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Joshua Edmonds on B4DE

“We're thankful for the opportunity and we're just really hoping that people use this as motivation to change things within their respective markets,” Edmonds told ILSR in a phone interview.

Net Neutrality and the Regulatory Theater of the FCC - Episode 571 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Karl Bode, a returning guest who has long covered tech and the telecommunications industry. After a short conversation about the continued absence of monopoly abuse in policy conversations about broadband access and affordability today, Karl and Christopher tackle the proposed return to net neutrality announced by Chairwoman Rosenworcel last week. 

They talk about how we got here in the first place, including the landmark decision by the Commission in 2015 to largely abdicate responsibility for Internet-related regulatory activities and the states that stepped in to fill the void. They end the show by considering for a bit what it might be like to have an expert federal agency whose activities governed by a strong regulatory framework and the teeth to enforce its mandate to extend fast, affordable, reliable Internet access for all.

This show is 38 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript below.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, the concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking control.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.

Lancaster PA Revives Public Private Partnership Plans With Shentel’s Glo Fiber

Lancaster, Pennsylvania has revitalized the city’s long percolating plan for a municipal broadband network, this time via a public-private partnership (PPP) with Shenandoah Telecommunications Company (Shentel). The city’s quest for more affordable, reliable broadband is a quest that’s taken the better part of a decade to finally come to fruition.

Lancaster city officials recently announced that they’d selected Shentel with an eye on ensuring uniform broadband availability to the city of 57,000.

“In 2022, the City issued an RFP for a partner to achieve stated goals, which received five responses, and led to the selection of Shentel,” the city said. “The contract will result in Shentel installing fiber at its sole cost to provide service to 100% of the city’s residents. Shentel plans to commence design and construction immediately upon execution of the final agreement.”

According to Lancaster officials, the city hired CTC Technology & Energy Engineering & Business Consulting to evaluate the city’s needs. The determination to proceed with a PPP with Shental was driven, in part, by the historic broadband grant opportunities being created thanks to the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), and the American Rescue Plan Act, the latter of which provided $39.5 million to the city.

Murfreesboro, TN Soon To Be Awash In Affordable Fiber Thanks To Local Cooperative, Google Fiber

Murfreesboro, Tennessee suddenly finds itself awash with looming broadband competitors thanks to the city’s booming growth. In less than a month, United Communications – owned by not-for-profit electric cooperative Middle Tennessee Electric (MTE) – and Google Fiber have unveiled major plans to expand affordable gigabit fiber within city limits.

MTE-owned United Communications says it has some big plans for the city of 157,000, starting with broadband upgrades for the utilities’ 77,000 existing electricity customers.  

According to a recent announcement, the cooperative-owned ISP will spend $85 million in existing cash reserves to deploy 1,400 miles of fiber in the city, bringing affordable gigabit access to existing MTE electricity customers. As with many utility deployments, the upgrades will prove beneficial for electrical grid monitoring and maintenance.

“We’ve already completed phase one in the Boro, which includes our fiber backbone and service to more than 1,000 homes and businesses. As part of phase one, we also built fiber to the square in downtown Murfreesboro,” United President and CEO William Bradford said in a statement. “It was a privilege to put our fiber infrastructure to work by connecting our neighbors in disadvantaged communities and adding resiliency to the local emergency communications network.”

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Middle Tennessee Electric logo

Last year, United received $53.4 million in grants from the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund (made possible by the The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021) to help shore up broadband access in numerous Tennessee counties, including Bedford, Franklin, Giles, Lincoln, Marshall, Maury, Moore and Williamson.

Hope and Change (Redux) - Episode 570 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

This week on the podcast we bring back a fan favorite from a year ago that feels particularly relevant, especially as the FTC prepares itself to undertake landmark antitrust cases against Google and Amazon.

Christopher is joined by Harold Feld, Senior Vice President at Public Knowledge. Feld is a staple of the field, and has been a consistent voice not only for consumers but broadband advocates of all types for more than two decades. 

The show takes on a reflective nature, as they talk about theories of change in the context of doing broadband policy today. Harold shares how he thinks of the progress that gets made in the long term by aligning the corporate incentive with the public interest. He shares coming to terms with having lots of hard days, the power of fighting battles you expect to lose, and learning, getting better, and building powerful coalitions along the way. Harold and Christopher end the show by talking about some examples of the latter, including important wins like the Rural Tribal Priority Window and the expansion of community networks of all shapes and sizes.

 This show is 48 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed. You can listen to the interview on this page or visit the Community Broadband Bits page.

Transcript below.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index.

Subscribe to the Building Local Power podcast, also from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, on iTunes or Stitcher to catch more great conversations about local communities, the concentration of corporate power, and how everyday people are taking control.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.